Rhianne was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease while studying at university when she was 21 years old. As a food lover this required a huge learning curve as it affected her health and social life dramatically. Rhianne decided to start her blog GlutenFreeRhii to create a guide to help fellow coeliacs adjust to this new way of life, by sharing her favourite gluten free finds.
1. How did you find out about your condition/allergy? When were you diagnosed?
- I was around 20 years old when I first started to feel ill. I couldn’t keep any food down, lost around 2 stone and spent most of my time in bed. I had a constant headache, really painful bloat and really struggled to think and concentrate which wasn’t great during my second year University exams! I started eating plain foods, usually pasta and bread which we now realise didn’t help! I then started avoiding gluten and dairy the best I could and noticed I started to feel a little better. We then investigated all things gluten free, and coeliac popped up which we suggested to the doctors. 18 months of struggling and I finally got a coeliac diagnoses through an endoscopy.
2. What is the biggest misunderstanding someone has had about your allergy?
- The biggest misunderstanding people have around me and coeliac disease is that they don’t understand that many people can be gluten free for different reasons. For example some may do it for a diet, some for intolerances and some due to coeliac disease which is an autoimmune disease so we can not have any amount of gluten, even a crumb. This usually comes up in Restaurants when something is labeled gluten free but may have been cooked with the same utensils or oil as gluten full food. Some people might be able to tolerate a little gluten if they have an intolerance or if it is a diet choice but cross contamination isn’t safe for coeliacs and some people don’t understand this.
3. What is the most annoying thing someone has said about your allergies?
- The most annoying thing people say to me about being coeliac is that I am being fussy or awkward with my food. Believe me, I wouldn’t choose to be coeliac and remove gluten from my diet if I didn’t have to! Another thing is when people say ‘just try a little bit’ or ‘a crumb won’t hurt you’, because it will. Even if some coeliacs don’t get any symptoms with it being an Autominute disease it will be doing some harm.
4. What has been your best free-from find?
- This is really tricky to answer as there are so many! Finding out Pizza Express can do gluten free meals and is credited by Coeliac UK has been super helpful! Where ever you are there is always one close by, so if you get caught out and are hungry you can get some safe food. Even though it isn’t my favourite restaurant their pollo pesto is super yummy and it is fairly cheap as there are plenty of discount codes around too. Product wise I really love hunter and gather mayo, it is gluten and dairy free, and they do a vegan one too. I also really love Nomo and Moo Free chocolate which are both gluten free and vegan. Creative Nature products are always a great cupboard staple, they are so easy to make, work every time.
5. What is your favourite indulgence food or recipe?
- My ultimate favourite food is chocolate: salted caramel to be precise. I could honestly eat it everyday. I am also a massive fan of Chinese food and I miss this the most about being gluten free. I find them really hard to come by but here are the 3 I know about; Naturally Chinese in London, Sweet Manderin in Manchester and G-Wu in Leeds and they all have a vegan menu too. I love icecream too and Grom is fully gluten free, even the cones and sauces. A really new find is Utter Waffle who sell both sweet and savoury waffles and they are the best I have tried, gluten free or otherwise!
6. What top tips do you have for someone starting out on an allergy free diet?
- My top tips for people starting a new diet due to an allergy or because you are coeliac is to go back to basics. There are so many recipes that are naturally gluten free or have easy cheap substitutes for and to try not focus on all the things you can’t have. There are so many new and exciting brands coming out all the time now so you can get trying lots of new products to see what you like. Another important tip is to buy new cutlery, pans, utensils and especially baking trays as there is always hidden burnt bits in the corners, (well mine did anyway!) Then you can just use those for gluten free items or give everything a really deep clean to avoid cross contamination. I also made a section in my cupboards for just gluten free food to keep them separate.